Editor’s note: John Mullane is the brand ambassador for JJ Kavanagh & Sons and will be bringing his thoughts on the 2017 Hurling championship. In John’s latest post, he looks on during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 2 match between Waterford and Kilkenny at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary.
Not since 1959 had Waterford defeated Kilkenny in the Championship. Did you see this coming?
I 100% did, yes! I suggested a tie against the cats was the fixture to get the show back on the road. Granted a loss would have been a massive set back going forward and would have resulted in an early Championship exit. The prize of a historic win would result in the galvanisation of the county after the Cork set back and would breath massive confidence into the squad and management going forward for the rest of the All Ireland series. I was confident that the latter would unfold and thankfully it resulted in the most memorable night, not to be forgotten.
Inevitably the experience of warriors like Kevin Moran and Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh mattered deeply, but Waterford had key contributors all over the field. Who do you think individually played well?
Two warriors who were been written off but by god did they lead the way like they have done time and time again. Outside of the two lads, it was a night were the entire panel contributed to the performance. It was a real squad effort that everyone bought into.
For me Jamie Barron, Tadhg de Burca and Austin Gleeson had the stand out moments of this game. However the most pleasing thing for me to see was the performance of a fully fit Darragh Fives and just highlighted how important it is for Darragh to stay fit for the rest of the campaign.
Kilkenny’s character will rarely be questioned but do you think they lacked it on Saturday? Is that where it went wrong for them?
Absolutely not. Kilkenny showed plenty of character no more so than the character they showed in the last 10 minutes of the match were they fought tooth and nail to the end. They showed all the characteristics you’d associate most with all the great Kilkenny teams in the past. They’ve had glorious years but like everything it has to come to and end! If Kilkenny supporters can take anything from the game is that their team kept fighting to the end.
Both sides were guilty of some poor long-range passing out of defence, Waterford were having better luck than Kilkenny in terms of getting the ball to their inside forwards. Do you think this made the difference in the end?
What was evident is that the match was played on Waterford’s terms and not Kilkenny’s. You could see this from the amount of green grass Kilkenny were happy to give up compared to Waterford who had a packed defence and plenty of protection in the back line. Waterford were happy to work the ball out of the defence and then work it into space. Whilst on the flip side Kilkenny went down the route of sending long direct ball into their forwards which were smuddered by an opposing Waterford defence.
Winning in such a manner could yet be a defining moment for this Waterford team. Do you think they are contenders for the All Ireland now?
Waterford were always contenders this year and have been for the last two years but they just had to go and win a game of this magnitude to push on. Now that they have this win and have that monkey off the back of finally beating Kilkenny. The manner in which they won the game will only help this group of players moving forward for the future. I feel it’s the perfect time and opportunity to kick on to greater things.
Waterford now go onto play Wexford. Do you think that Waterford can keep their form or was this their All Ireland final?
This was like a fence jumped by a horse in the grand national. There will be more bigger fences to jump to get over the line, starting in two weeks time against Wexford. At the time I was disappointed that we couldn’t get onto the field to celebrate with the lads. In hindsight, when looking back it worked out for the best. It was great to see the lads so grounded and that was reflected in the aftermath. This tells me the lads are focused on what lies ahead and that’s a testament to the players and management team!
Do you think that Brian Cody should stay on after this defeat?
I did feel coming into the game that Cody for the first time in over a decade was under a little bit of pressure. I think if he feels up for staying on it’s a no brainer. He has rebuilt four squads in the last 15/16 years. This will probably be the biggest challenge to rebuild this team but there is no better man in Kilkenny to take on the challenge than Brian Cody to do the job – I think he should stay on!